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Parenting Teens

Parenting Teens for College Success

Got a middle school or early high school student? College may seem far off to you, but the reality is it will be here before you know it.  The good news is you’ve got plenty of time to prepare your teen for a successful college transition later.

There’s a lot about going to college that has nothing to do with academics: moving away from home, adjusting to a new environment, making healthy choices, self-advocating, managing stress, and balancing school and fun – just to name a few!

So, what can you do now to ensure that your kid will be confident, independent, resilient and ready for college when it’s time for them to go?

  • Help kids develop good study and time management skills so they are writing and studying for tests without a lot of help from you. (Yes, there are parents who still edit their kids’ papers in college, believe it or not!) Let them experience the consequences of procrastination and disorganization, even if it means they might fail.
  • Teach them to be problem solvers. If they come to you with a problem at school or social issue, refrain from telling them what to do. Instead, be a sounding board. Encourage them to come up with possible solutions so that they will feel empowered to handle it themselves. They’ll gain confidence, social intelligence and resilience.
  • Open a teen checking account with a debit card and teach them some of the basic banking skills. Encourage them to create a budget and keep track of their allowance and money earned, as well as money spent, so they begin to develop smart financial habits.
  • Involve them with household chores like setting the table, cooking and cleaning up the kitchen, and their room. Teach them how to do laundry and make their beds. It seems basic but with today’s busy lifestyle, even the basics can be a challenge.
  • Give them the gift of new experiences. Sleep away camp, summer study abroad programs, volunteer work, and travel programs are excellent ways for your kids to broaden and develop their interests, self-confidence, empathy for others, and independence. Kids who have had previous experiences away from home tend to have an easier adjustment to life away at college.
  • Talk to your kids about alcohol, drugs and sex. And then talk to them again. There is no formula and there is no guarantee they will listen, but make no mistake – they will hear you. The earlier kids can hear about your family’s views on these subjects, the better equipped they will be to make informed choices later. Although peer relationships are the focus of teen development, research shows that even in college, student behavior can be greatly influenced by their parents.
  • Instruct them to develop safe and appropriate online habits. Talk to them about the importance of keeping personal information private, the pros and cons of interacting on social media sites, screen time, and digital etiquette. Set limits.
  • Gradually give them more social freedom. Kids who have never before experienced some of the social freedoms they will encounter in college, may have a harder time adjusting to college life.

In a recent article on college parents and letting go, NY Times Op-Ed columnist Charles Blow reminds us that kids “are a gift life gave to me, but one that I must one day give back to life. They must grow up and go away and that is as it should be.”

As we prepare our kids to grow up and go away, let’s remember that kids learn best by doing. If we always shield them from the discomfort and rescue them from the struggles that are part of daily life, we do them a disservice. Help your kid be ready for all that lies ahead so that they can meet the challenges of life with confidence, resilience and grace.

KnowsyMoms founders Patti Winkel and Dani Rogers met the summer before their oldest kids started their freshman year at Tufts University. It was during that summer that they realized there was more to sending their kids off to college than buying a few things and kissing them goodbye. And KnowsyMoms was born: a website that provides parents of college students with information and tips about everything they need to know, buy and do as they help their kids get ready for freshman year and beyond, navigate the issues related to college life, and stay connected while letting go.

KnowsyMoms has breaking college news and expert advice, all in one easily accessible place. As college parents ourselves, we share what we’ve learned from our own experiences, from other parents, and from lots of research. We give parents the knowledge and support they need, so they can relax and let go. With the wisdom to know when to step in and when to step back, our kids can navigate with confidence all that lies ahead. 


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